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City Council to discuss events center, HRDC role

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Discussion of a potential partnership between the Bemidji City Council and the Headwaters Regional Development Commission will continue on Monday as councilors are expected to consider a proposal from HRDC to facilitate the project.

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The council and HRDC Executive Director Cliff Tweedale discussed the project during a special meeting on Tuesday, but specific details of a proposal were not identified.

The proposal is expected to include costs and will likely detail the HRDC's role in facilitating the project. However, the actually proposal was not ready in time to be included in early editions of the council packet.

Terminology and word choice lately has been a point of contention for the City Council. Councilor Ron Johnson has advocated for retaining someone to lead the project, and Councilor Nancy Erickson repeatedly has objected to the use of the word "steer" in regards to project facilitation.

Other council members have simply supported having someone lead negotiations between the city of Bemidji and Bemidji State University hockey, which is anticipated to be the anchor tenant of the events center, regarding a potential lease agreement.

Tweedale told the council on Tuesday that HRDC is in the business of managing processes. HRDC, he explained, would help the council "broker and champion" a process that would lead to a proposal that fits within the council's own parameters and meets the council's objectives.

"The result is up to you," he said last week.

The council now is supporting a $50 million multiuse events center that would feature BSU hockey as its anchor tenant and contain approximately 10,000 square feet of events center space.

Funding for the project would be split 50-50 between the city's half-cent sales tax and $25 million from the state of Minnesota, assuming the bonding request is approved during the 2008 Legislative Session.

The council decided last month against including a convention center and a second sheet of practice ice for BSU hockey in the events center. To include those pieces, the total cost of the project would likely have been at least $60 million.

But, as some council members repeatedly point out, despite recent and past votes in support of an events center, no vote to date has authorized construction of the actual facility.

Other council matters

The City Council will consider several other items during Monday's meeting.

Also on the agenda are the following matters:

-- Issuing general obligation bonds to finance a portion of the new Public Works Facility.

-- Discussion led by the city attorney on how to interpret the City Charter in relation to hiring policies. Recent questions have been raised about whether the city manager has the authority to hire department heads outside of council-approved salary ranges.

-- The installation of an irrigation system at Diamond Point Park.

The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 317 Fourth St. N.W.

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